We spoke to the major political parties about what they hope to achieve in this year’s budget in relation to third-level institutes. Now that the budget has been released here are their hopes so we can see what was achieved:
Fianna Fáil wants to restore the postgraduate grants and allocate extra funding towards Higher-Education institutes in this year’s budget, according to Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Education Thomas Byrne.
He believes that a budget of €350m allows for a huge sum of money that can be allocated to universities in order to provide for and better the conditions of our higher education institutes.
“There is extra money in the budget and that just quite simply needs to go towards third-level institutions.
“Third-level colleges needs more money, they need a lot more money,” he said.
Byrne said that in order to do that they could use money from the National Exchequer Fund and the National Training Fund. This would require an increase of 0.1 per cent in employers’ PRSI which is believed would bring in approximately 1.5 million euro.
On the topic of funding third-level education, Byrne said that Fianna Fáil do not support the income-contingent loan scheme that has been proposed because they have not been convinced that it would work.
“We remain to be convinced whether it could work or not and we aren’t going to support something that doesn’t work,” he said.
Sinn Féin would like to reduce the Student Contribution Charge by €500 and to increase the core funding to Higher Education establishments, according to their spokesperson for education, Kathleen Funchion.
Despite the fact that reducing the Student Contribution Charge would cost €7.07 million in 2018, Funchion says that the money is actually there and so this is actually achievable.
“The money is there but just currently the Government has no political will to help what you would call the ordinary person. It’s not a case of where would you get the money, when you see the figures you can see that they actually can make changes and they can make things a little bit better.
“Obviously they can’t make education better overnight but they could definitely do a lot more than they’re currently doing but they just don’t prioritise it,” she said.
Sinn Fein believe that Higher Education is causing unnecessary stress on families and that the government should allocate money to enable more people to enter third-level.
“I would say that the funding crisis is in relation to people trying to access third-level and stay in it. In terms of funding third-level education from the state, that would obviously need to be increased but I think the end goal is so we can reduce student fees,” she said.
Fine Gael would like to introduce a new higher education funding model, as outlined in their Action Plan for Education 2017.
They would like to fund implement a multi-annual funding model that would involve increased Exchequer and employers’ PRSI contribution.
A spokesperson for Minister for Education Richard Bruton said higher education is a ‘central part’ to the Government’s plans to creating a strong economy.
On the topic of the Cassel’s report, the spokesperson said that they couldn’t ignore the realities that it presented.
“Examining the proposals in this report is key to putting in place a sustainable system of funding that can deliver a world-class third-level system for the medium and long term.
“This is an area where broad political consensus is needed on the future direction and Minister Bruton will be working to build that consensus,” she said to the Irish Times.
Labour wants to reduce student contribution by €1,000 from next September and invest a further €21 million to increase college staffing, according to their pre-budget submission.
Reducing the student contribution from September is just the first step to achieving their goal of abolishing student fees by 2020.
They would be asking companies to pay 0.1 percent more in the National Training Fund levy to support the funding of higher-education institutes and help the progress of abolishing student fees.
“For too long, the growing cost of funding third-level has been borne by students and their families. As well as asking companies to pay a little more towards these costs, we think it is time for the state to bear a greater share of the costs,” their proposals said.
Labour acknowledges that the Cassell’s report on third-level education says we either need to increase fees and set up a student-loan scheme or abolish them completely, and they said they are completely against the idea of a loan scheme.